Presented on Wednesday, May 30, 2007 in the Barn at Quarry Farm. Mark Twain made a career out of what he called "health-giving theological travel." From his 1867 masquerade as the "Reverend Mark Twain" to gain a berth on the Quaker City excursions to the Old World and the Holy Land to his many later trips abroad, Twain used travel to created the occasion for parody, burlesque, and theological dialogue. Twain embarked on the Quaker City, for example, to situate himself as an observer and parodist in that environment of devout attention to the geography of religion. Throughout the writer's career, travel served to bring him into contact with faraway places - and deities - with strange sounding names. During his career, Twain's theological travel took him to Joss houses in San Francisco, to the Vatican, to the Holy Land, and to the Hindu temple in Benares where Twain visited with the Sri 108 Matparamahansaparivrajakcharyaswamibhaskaranandasaraswati, the "living god." Twain gave him a copy of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, feeling that "if it didn't do him any good it wouldn't do him any harm." These collisions of culture and theology are riotously funny even while fostering profound theological dialogue. While theological travel may, like most travel, broaden one's views, Twain's comments typically derive from an orthodox perspective. The privileged position Twain granted orthodoxy, particularly while burlesquing other forms of belief, remained a point of reference, even while "lightly excursioning along the primrose path of theology."
Joe B. Fulton is Professor of English at Baylor University in Waco Texas, where he has been honored as an "Outstanding Professor for Scholarship" and as a "Baylor University Class of 1945 Centennial Professor." Dr. Fulton has published numerous books and articles on American literature. In addition, he has published four books on Mark Twain: Mark Twain's Ethical Realism: The Aesthetics of Race, Class, and Gender (1997); Mark Twain in the Margins: The Quarry Farm Marginalia and the Composition of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (2000); The Revered Mark Twain: Theological Burlesque, Form, and Content (2006); and The Reconstruction of Mark Twain: How a Confederate Bushwhacker became the Lincoln of our Literature (2011), winner of the Jules and Frances landry Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Southern Studies and honored by Choice as an "Outstanding Academic Title."